Where you grow up has a profound effect on your income and life expectancy. New research by a team of Harvard sociologists finds that poverty is only part of the picture, though: "Kids from low-income neighborhoods that are beset by high rates of violence, incarceration and lead exposure earn less money, on average, in adulthood than equally poor children from less hazardous neighborhoods." www.sciencenews.org/article/why-some-low-income-neighborhoods-are-better-others
This map looks at the most important agricultural commodity (by $ value) in each state. Overall, California and Iowa have the highest agriculture income, with agriculture in each state worth more than $17 billion. howmuch.net/articles/the-most-valuable-agricultural-commodity-per-each-state
Scenario A: Scientists discover a compound that protects against Alzheimers. Scenario B: Scientists discover a compound that enhances human cognition. Americans' ethical intuition tends to support cure and prevention (and Scenario A) but frown upon performance enhancement (and Scenario B).
But what happens when it is the same compound in both scenarios? This article looks at the research and ethical questions surrounding the hormone Klotho, named for one of the Greek Fates:
With birds migrating and days clearly getting longer in the Northern Hemisphere, this gif shows the position of the sun striking the earth, and the consequences for daylight, throughout the year:
Can't get to the Galápagos? On May 7, the National Geographic Museum in Washington, DC, is hosting a student viewing of "Journey to Galápagos" and conversation with marine scientist and NGS Explorer-in-Residence Enric Sala at 10 am. Tickets are $5 per person and must be reserved in advance. www.nationalgeographic.org/events/event/journey-galapagos/
Is it "tea" or "chai"? Your answer likely depends on where you encountered the item and the path the word (and the item) originally took to that location. This map traces the language geography of various agricultural products. www.visualcapitalist.com/mapping-words-along-trade-routes/
Consumption of unsafe water kills more people annually than conflict and natural disasters combined. In some of the world's most populous countries, like Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than 50% of the population lacks access to safe water. www.statista.com/chart/17445/global-access-to-safe-drinking-water/
Hoodoos, or fairy chimneys, are distinctive sandstone formations with a harder, more erosion-resistant rock on the top and a softer rock at the base. Tourists from around the world are drawn to the fairy chimneys in Cappadocia, Turkey, and the hoodoos in Bryce Canyon, Utah, for example. For those looking for a less-traveled experience, the Ah-Shi-Sle-Pah Wilderness Study Area offers six miles of hoodoos in northwest New Mexico: www.atlasobscura.com/places/ahshislepah-wilderness-study-area
This map, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal last week, looks at changes in metro area population. The "empty" circles show areas that declined in population from 2017 to 2018. (Look at Illinois, for example.) The green circles show areas that grew in population primarily because of natural growth (e.g., births) or domestic migration (people moving from a different part of the U.S. to those locations). The blue circles show areas that grew in population primarily because of international migration. In aggregate, immigration accounted for 48% of U.S. population growth from 2017 to 2018. www.wsj.com/articles/immigrants-propel-population-growth-in-10-of-u-s-counties-11555560061
On Friday, the eagerly awaited sequel to Avengers: Infinity War will be released. This article nicely encapsulates the philosophical dilemma at the center of the films and is worth reading before seeing the movie:
"The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s latest entry, Avengers: Infinity War, raises a question familiar to hero stories — what is the worth of one life relative to many? — but avoids offering the usual easy answer. ... Early on, it becomes clear that Thanos has a few Infinity Stones, wants them all, and intends to wipe out half the living beings in the universe if he gets them. ... One of the Infinity Stones is in Vision’s head. But when he suggests that Scarlet Witch destroy it, and likely kill him in the process, Captain America says, “We don’t trade lives.” Within that one line of dialogue lies one of the oldest disputes in moral philosophy.
On one side, you have Captain America’s deontological perspective, typically associated with philosopher Immanuel Kant, which says (to, uh, simplify considerably) that every human being is an end in themselves, a basic moral unit due basic moral consideration, not a means to other ends. ... On the other side, you have Thanos’s utilitarian perspective, typically associated with philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, which says that the goal should be the most good (happiness, well-being, utility, what have you) for the most people. The greater good, not the individual, is the primary moral consideration. Both these positions can be made to seem ridiculous if taken to their logical extremes. ... But both positions also appeal to some of our intuitions. And their contrasting attractions are drawn with particular clarity in Infinity War.
Thanos’s plan is fairly crude utilitarianism, but not so crude that it can be dismissed out of hand. As World War II showed in the US, Japan, and Germany, the aftermath of a mass casualty event can be a period of sustained economic growth. If Thanos succeeds, there will be half as many people, but (once they recover from their shock and grief, presumably) they will have access to twice as many resources and will end up twice as happy. Their children will be happier too. Over the succeeding few generations, the total amount of well-being in the universe will increase relative to the no-Thanos baseline. Of course, life being what it is, it would eventually overpopulate again and Thanos would have to do his thing again. But if he’s willing to cull every few centuries, he could theoretically achieve a gargantuan boost in net welfare over the fullness of time. He would be hated, but he would have produced more net utility than any being in history. He would be a utilitarian god! ... [Captain America is] such a Kantian that he can’t sacrifice Vision, even though it would have saved countless Wakandan lives even before Thanos snapped his fingers. He can’t sacrifice anyone else, even when they want to be sacrificed, even when it would obviously help. (He can sacrifice himself — more on that later — but that’s a different moral calculus.) This is a familiar tension in hero movies of all kinds: the dilemma of whether to sacrifice lives for the greater good."
Most modern maps conventionally show north at the top of the map, with east to the right, south at the bottom, and west to the left. This was not always the case. During the Middle Ages, world maps often adopted what is known as the O-T design, with east (Asia) at the top of the map, south (Africa) in the lower right quadrant of the map, and north/west (Europe) in the lower left quadrant of the map, separated by a T of water (the Mediterranean and Red Sea). This was done in order to place Jerusalem at the center of the map. The Hereford (UK) Mappa Mundi ("map of the world") is the largest extant example: www.researchgate.net/profile/Qian_Sun15/publication/319561588/figure/fig1/AS:631640015515651@1527606123196/Hereford-Mappa-Mundi-One-of-the-most-famous-medieval-maps-in-existence-dates-from.png
Half way between Pennsylvania's biggest city (Philadelphia) and its capital (Harrisburg) is West Reading, PA, the home of RM Palmer Company. Take a virtual field trip to West Reading to see how chocolate bunnies are made: www.youtube.com/watch?v=hF3Dbw3PPI8
People may be familiar with Polynesia ("many islands"), Micronesia ("small islands"), and Indonesia ("islands of the Indies"). Relatively few are familiar with Macaronesia ("islands of the fortunate") and may even assume it is a typo for Macronesia (which doesn't exist). Macaronesia, as this Reddit map shows, refers to the island archipelagos to the west of southern Europe and northern Africa, including the Azores, the Canary Islands, Madeira, and Cape Verde. www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/b6iuhu/macaronesia_800x1052/
A commission in the UK has found that deaths from infections that were previously curable by antibiotics will surpass cancer and be the leading cause of death worldwide by 2050. Although developed countries, including their agricultural sectors, continue to be heavy users of antibiotics, researchers are finding that urban areas of poorer countries are ground zero in the fight against antibiotic resistance, both because of the widespread availability of cheap generics and the prevalence of untreated human waste.
"Antibiotics, the miracle drugs credited with saving tens of millions of lives, have never been more accessible to the world’s poor, thanks in large part to the mass production of generics in China and India. ... Kibera [a poor neighborhood in Nairobi, Kenya] residents are prodigious consumers of antibiotics. One study found that 90 percent of households in Kibera had used antibiotics in the previous year, compared with about 17 percent for the typical American family. ... [U]rban poverty is a huge and largely unappreciated driver of resistance. And so, the rise of resistant microbes is having a disproportionate impact on poor countries, where squalid and crowded living conditions, lax oversight of antibiotic use and a scarcity of affordable medical care are fueling the spread of infections increasingly unresponsive to drugs. ... Sam Kariuki, a researcher at the Kenya Medical Research Institute who has been studying resistance for two decades, said nearly 70 percent of salmonella infections in Kenya had stopped responding to the most widely available antibiotics, up from 45 percent in the early 2000s. Salmonella kills roughly 45,000 Kenyan children every year, or nearly one in three who fall severely ill with it, he said. In the United States, the mortality rate is close to zero."
It is anticipated that cities will absorb all of the planet's population growth between now and 2050, but, at the same time, 90% of the world's largest cities are already vulnerable to sea level rise. One possible solution? "A company called Oceanix is building a prototype floating island as an experimental solution for crowded coastal cities threatened by climate change, the company told the United Nations habitat program Wednesday. Such buoyant islands would be linked together into floating, self-sustaining cities that rise with sea levels and are built to withstand hurricanes, according to a group of architects, engineers and developers who met at the U.N. headquarters. The prototype will be a small-scale version that could be ready within months, said Marc Collins Chen, an entrepreneur and former French Polynesian politician who founded Oceanix. Officials at the United Nations welcomed the proposal but have not officially joined the plan to create floating cities. The idea might sound outlandish, but urban coasts are running out of land and becoming increasingly vulnerable as sea levels are projected to rise as much as seven inches by 2030. ... To reclaim shrunken coastlines, Singapore and other seaside megacities already pour sand into the ocean, and sand is quickly becoming a scarce resource. Amina Mohammed, the U.N. deputy secretary general, said the proposal is more unconventional than approaches the United Nations would have taken even four years ago. 'We are trying to adapt,' she said. 'We are trying to think ahead.'" www.washingtonpost.com/science/2019/04/05/seas-rise-un-explores-bold-plan-floating-cities/
It is tax day in the U.S. Although many Americans think the affluent are more likely to be audited, a new study of IRS data finds that if you want to avoid an audit, it is best not to be poor, black, Hispanic, or Native American :-/. www.vox.com/future-perfect/2019/4/3/18292741/irs-tax-audit-eitc-black-belt
Journalism professor Angela Phillips was the 2019 winner of the Philosophy Now (UK) Award for Contributions in the Fight Against Stupidity. From her acceptance speech:
"Stupidity is not about intelligence, or education. Rather, a stupid action or statement usually follows an untested assumption. It is stupid to leave your house without your keys because you didn’t check that they were where you thought they ought to be. And our assumptions too often come from a broad understanding of the world that we have stopped bothering to reconsider, because, ‘Hey, we’ve always thought that, so it must be true’. Broadcasting a conclusion based on an untested assumption simply compounds the error. ... [T]he very first step in the consideration of any new piece of information should be to stop and check your own preconceptions. Whatever one’s worldview, if the evidence doesn’t tell you what you thought it would, then you need to reconsider your own assumptions before rejecting the evidence. I tried to follow that rule in my own journalism, and now my job as a professor of journalism is to teach other people: • To be careful; • To ask yourself, ‘Is this plausible?’; • To respect the evidence;• To check your own prejudices; • To keep in mind the prejudices of those who employ you; • To correct the record if you find that the evidence doesn’t accord with your first impressions."
The way Americans pronounce the name of a country or a city is often quite different from the way the locals pronounce it. Although intended to be a bit tongue-in-cheek, this map actually provides quite accurate phonetic descriptions of how to pronounce each European capital in the dominant native language. jakubmarian.com/pronunciation-of-european-capitals/
Does your student want to expand his/her understanding of investment and personal finance this summer? The University of Texas at Dallas's Jindal School of Management is hosting its Top Trader competition with optional financial education modules June 3-July 26: jindal.utdallas.edu/top-trader/#02-financial-education (Prefer an in-person class? Join me for my "Stock Market Challenge: An Intro to Finance & Investment" class on Tuesday mornings in the fall.)
The oil-rich sultanate of Brunei, on the northern coast of Borneo, was in the news recently for making homosexuality and extramarital sex punishable by stoning to death. This map shows all the countries in the world in which homosexuality may be subject to the death penalty. www.statista.com/chart/17587/countries-where-homosexuality-can-result-in-the-death-penalty/
Libya's low-burner civil war has been back in the news this week with both the upcoming Libyan National Conference and the not-coincidentally-timed advance of Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter on the capital of Tripoli. This article from Al Monitor provides context on Hifter's moves.
"All Arab civil wars are not created equal. Libya has been in a state of civil war for five years now, yet it hasn’t been a civil war full of massacres or famines like the sectarian wars in Yemen and Syria. Libya’s war has certain highly unusual characteristics: low death tolls, high diffusion of arms, two governments (both of whom claim sovereignty but do not actually exercise it), extreme fragmentation of fighting forces, and the same central bank paying the fighters on all sides. From a military perspective, the defining characteristic of Libya’s war relates to how territory is captured. Where there have been protracted pitched battles, usually against jihadists, exchange of territory happens slowly and destructively. Conversely, where there have been huge gains and losses of territory, it usually transpires with groups being bought off to switch their allegiances, or with one force marching its column of technicals across a highway and the other side running away with nary a shot being fired. What does this say for the prospects to resolve Libya’s civil war militarily, as one actor is now trying to do?"
"Researchers at a Washington-based think tank have noticed that a funny thing happens whenever Russian President Vladimir Putin gets close to a harbor: The GPS of the ships moored there go haywire, placing them many miles away on the runways of nearby airports. According to a new report by security experts with the group C4ADS, the phenomenon suggests that Putin travels with a mobile GPS spoofing device and, more broadly, that Russia is manipulating global navigation systems on a scale far greater than previously understood." foreignpolicy.com/2019/04/03/russia-is-tricking-gps-to-protect-putin
There are 59 national parks in the U.S. (and one more each in American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands). This map, which is essentially a Voronoi diagram, partitions the U.S. based on proximity to one of these national parks. The location of the parks themselves is shown with a small "+."
In 1978, the world's first so-called test-tube baby, Louise Brown, was born in the UK. At that time, the UK had no rules overseeing experimentation on human embryos. By 1982, a government commission tasked with recommending regulations pertaining to research with human embryos was convened with Mary Warnock, an Oxford-educated philosopher, as its chair. Parsing issues of ethics, religion, and biology, Warnock help guide the commission to a pioneering set of recommendations on embryo research and fertility treatment. Warnock died in late March at age 94. www.nytimes.com/2019/03/29/obituaries/mary-warnock-dead.html
These maps compare child mortality -- defined as the percentage of children who are born alive but die before their 5th birthday -- across time. In 1800, an estimated one-third to one-half of all children born globally before their 5th birthday. By 2015, child mortality rates are vastly lower and clearly linked to economic development. ourworldindata.org/uploads/2018/10/3-World-Maps-of-Child-Mortality-Rate.png
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